“An immense amount of damage has been done the enemy”
—Early's 1864 Attack On Washington —
In June 1864, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Gen. Jubal A. Early's corps from the Richmond battlefields to the Shenandoah Valley to counter Union Gen. David Hunter's army. After driving Hunter into West Virginia, Early invaded Maryland to attack Washington D.C., draw Union troops from Richmond, and release Confederate prisoners held at Point Lookout. On July 9, Early ordered Gen. Bradley T. Johnson's cavalry brigade eastward to free the prisoners. The next day, Johnson sent Maj. Harry Gilmor's regiment to rait the Baltimore area. Union Gen. Lew Wallace delayed Early at the Battle of Monocacy on July 9. Federal reinforcements soon strengthened the capital's defenses. Early attacked there near Fort Stevens on July 11-12 and then withdrew to the Shenandoah Valley with the Federals in Pursuit. He stopped them at Cool Spring on July 17-18. Despite failing to take Washington or free prisoners, Early succeeded in diverting Federal resources.
Soon after dawn on July 14, 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early's corps, Army of Northern Virginia, began crossing the Potomac River here from the Maryland side. Although tired, the men were in high spirits as they returned from a campaign threatening the capital in Washington D.C. The precious weeks of hard marching and fighting had taken a
toll. After heavy skirmishing in front of the capital's defenses on July 11-12 as President Abraham Lincoln watched, the Confederates retired toward Virginia. They arrived on the Maryland side of White's Ford on the evening of July 13. After crossing and reforming their ranks, Early's men marched south from here to camp at Big Spring north of Leesburg.
The Confederates returned to Virginia with more than 3,000 captured horses and 2,500 head of cattle, while wagons carried much-needed provisions for the army. Early could boast $220,000 from ransoms (or "levies") imposed on Maryland cities. Early wrote to Gen. Robert E. Lee the next day from his headquarters near Leesburg, "An immense amount of damage has been done the enemy. ...I am sorry I did not succeed in capturing Washington and releasing our prisoners at Point Lookout [Maryland], but the latter was impracticable after I determined to retire from before Washington."
Early's force left Leesburg on the morning of July 16 to march to the Shenandoah Valley. A Union cavalry ambush ten miles west of Purcellville recaptured some of the Maryland plunder.